A state judge has ruled several class-action lawsuits can proceed against South Carolina Electric & Gas over the company’s failed nuclear construction project.
Circuit Judge John Hayes dismissed a motion from the Cayce-based utility that argued the court did not have jurisdiction to hear the suits. SCE&G had argued state law protects it from lawsuits that challenge its power rates.
“The amounts of the rate charged to consumers by SCE&G is not the issue,” Hayes wrote. “Instead, this complaint seeks to address whether funds collected by SCE&G… should be recouped by ratepayers based on alleged principles of law and equity.”
Several different groups have sued seeking a refund for customers’ whose bills went towards the ill-fated V.C. Summer project. The state Public Service Commission has approved nine rate increases since 2007 to help pay construction costs. SCE&G continues to charge the higher rate for now as it seeks to pay back the project’s debt.
Attorney General Alan Wilson said his office is satisfied with Friday’s ruling. “Even though the State is a defendant in this case, we are pleased that Judge Hayes’ ruling allows the case to move forward,” his office said in an emailed statement. “We have always maintained that the BLRA is unconstitutional, and we firmly believe the ratepayers should have their day in court. The judge’s ruling is a victory for ratepayers.”
BLRA is an abbreviation of the 2007 Base Load Review Act, which changed state law to allow SCE&G and its construction partner Santee Cooper to charge customers on the front end rather than recouping finished construction costs later.